Sunday, March 08, 2009

40 Toys ~ Spirograph


OMG!! Have you seen this yet? The online SPIROGRAPH!!

This toy filled hours of my young life. I was the Spirograph artist of my family. Mom would even post them on the fridge for all the world to see.

I had no idea however that I was playing with this:


Spirograph is a geometric drawing toy that produces mathematical curves of the variety technically known as hypotrochoids and epitrochoids. The term has also been used to describe a variety of software applications that display similar curves, and applied to the class of curves that can be produced with the drawing equipment (so in this sense it may be regarded as a synonym of hypotrochoid). The name is a registered trademark of Hasbro, Inc.

Spirograph was quite simple, it worked with a set of plastic gears and other shapes such as rings, triangles, or straight bars. There were several sizes of gears and shapes, and all edges had teeth to engage any other piece. For instance, smaller gears fit inside the larger rings, but also can engage the outside of the rings so that they rotate around the inside or along the outside edge of the rings.

To use it, a sheet of paper is placed on a heavy cardboard backing, and one of the plastic pieces is pinned to the paper and cardboard. Another plastic piece is placed so that its teeth engage with those of the pinned piece. For example, a ring may be pinned to the paper and a small gear placed inside the ring – the actual number of arrangements possible by combining different gears was, as a kid infinite. The point of a pen is placed in one of the holes in the moving piece. As the moving part is moved the pen traces out a curve.

The pen is used both to draw and provide locomotive force; some practice is required before Spirograph can be operated without disengaging the fixed and moving pieces. (That took me while...) More intricate and unusual-shaped patterns may be made through the use of both hands, one to draw and one to guide the pieces.

By playing this game as a kid I learned that math didn't suck. I always hated math, it was by far my worst subject. Yet, the gorgeous patterns you created were based on good old math. The fact fact that you could vary the size of your drawings by using different holes on the geared wheel was an almost transcendental bit of knowledge. You walked away realizing that math could be applied in ways that were pretty cool.

I started out with just the simple Spirograph game, but soon advanced to the SUPER-Spirograph in no time!

I wonder if Spirograph is still for sale, if not I can just play the online game.

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